I was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma. Growing up in a small town is an experience in itself. If you didn’t grow up in a small town, then you probably don’t understand, but if you did then you probably also grew up with the same kids since you were in preschool. The kids you grew up around are the kids from the same people your parents grew up with. You understand what I mean when I say everyone knows everyone. I grew up around people who knew exactly who I was, who I belonged to, where I went to school, and probably where I lived. It is just how my small town works.
Claremore, Oklahoma, has always had a unique feel to it. If you are from here then you are probably secretly proud of being associated with Will Rogers. Even though you may not know exactly who he is or what he’s famous for, you still know he is from Claremore and that in itself is something to be kind of proud of! Same goes for Lynn Riggs and Patti Page, they are more than just local street names. So much history and character is contained within our four mile wide town.
If you grew up here then you probably remember driving up Will Rogers Boulevard as a kid and thinking that the gold dome building at Rogers State University was the capital building (I know I always did!). Maybe you remember running the “Big Block” during high school or the dreaded run up Talbert Hill by the memorial. Speaking of the memorial, you know that on the rare occasion that it snows, the hill at Will Rogers Memorial is the place to go! If you are from Claremore, every September you look forward to the Bluegrass and Chili festival. Even if you hate bluegrass music, you still make a stop for some good fair food and for something to do on a weekend. Same thing goes for the Dickens on the Boulevard in historic downtown Claremore during Christmas time. That was always my favorite as a kid!
Despite the history and wonderful sense of community that Claremore contains, growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of my town. I was ready to be free, experience the world, and see what all that was out there. My ticket out was college, as it is for many other people from here. I looked forward to moving out of my small town to a big, glamorous town where people hung out somewhere other than at the local Sonic, like I did in high school.
My senior year of high school, I finally decided on what school I was going to attend. My decision? Rogers State University. What!? That’s right. I decided to stay in my small town for college.
Something changed in me during high school. I began to appreciate the people I saw at the grocery store and the people who always told me they knew who my dad was. It meant I always had people looking out for me. All of these people cared about who I became and what I was doing. Playing sports in high school, people I didn’t even know cheered me on consistently. I checked out at the store one day and someone said, “Hey, aren’t you that golfer?” I hesitantly said, “Umm, yes. Why?” They continued to tell me how they had been following my golf season and thought it was cool someone from town was doing so well! This wouldn’t happen in a big city.
The support of my hometown has gotten me to where I am. These people supported me and cheered me on. This is for everyone in my town, too. Most recently, we have had a guy who is trying to make it to the Olympics for bobsledding. It is everywhere you look: On social media, the local newspaper, bank signs, etc. My hometown is incredibly proud of the people who come out of here and represent our tiny community. There is definitely a strong sense of small town pride!
Staying close to home for college has been one of the best decisions I could have made. I get to be involved in the community that helped raise me. I get to contribute and give back to the people who have watched out for me, cheered me on, and supported me. I can see my family whenever I want, go back to old high school teachers for help or advice, and be a leader in my home church. I don’t have to live these two separate lives that come with going to college during the school year and then coming home during the summer. I am seeing my community grow and people become proud to be from here, and I get to be a consistent part of it!
As of today, my parents’ house, my job, my church, and the two people closest to me’s houses are within a mile from my dorm on campus. So even though I still go to Sonic almost every week to hang out, and I have to look decent when I go to the grocery store in case I see someone I know, I can honestly say that I am very proud to be from my small town.
-by Addison Losornio